Rare ruling amid tide against death penalty
Publish date: 13 January 2020
Issue Number: 855
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Uganda's highest court has upheld the death penalty imposed on a teacher who murdered his nine-year-old pupil to cover up the illicit sexual relationship the man was having with the child's under-age aunt. The unanimous decision, delivered last month, is a rare case, writes Carmel Rickard in her A Matter of Justice column on the Legalbrief site. More than a decade ago the court declared as unconstitutional, the previous regime under which the death penalty was mandatory in certain types of case. This was followed, in August 2019, by Parliament passing a Bill that abolished mandatory death sentences. In this case, however, the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, have upheld the sentence imposed, saying the case was among 'the worst of the worst'. Despite the Supreme Court's decision, it is unlikely the man will be executed: while President Yoweri Museveni is ambivalent on the issue, no one has been put to death by the state for 20 years and the court has held that after a convict has spent three years on death row, the death penalty is automatically converted to life imprisonment.